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Interview: Tangled Directors Nathan Greno & Byron Howard - Page 2
"Tangled" directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard introduce three types of bonus features on the film's Blu-ray Disc.

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to read about Tangled's development, directors, cast, characters, and story

The Look

Did you have any real life locations in mind when designing the Kingdom and its surrounding environments?

Byron Howard: Yes. We take our research very seriously. Knowing that we wanted Rapunzel's story to take place in central Europe (Austria/Hungary), we did exhaustive research into local architecture, artwork, even flora and fauna.
Learn about Rapunzel's 70 feet of hair from
Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, and the crew of Tangled:
Every tree you see in Tangled's forest actually grows in those regions of central Europe.

What artists did you consult for the look of the film? It looks pre-Raphaelite to me.

Nathan Greno: We actually looked at the classic Disney films of the 1940s and '50s! We wanted Tangled to sit on the shelf next to Alice in Wonderland, Dumbo, Peter Pan -- all of those great movies, but we wanted it to be fresh and different and modern as well. By going after a classic Disney look/style... and creating that look in the computer... we thought we could find that balance.

Why do you think it's easier for some to look at stylized characters like the ones in Tangled instead of the motion capture ones like in Polar Express?

Nathan Greno: I personally enjoy the more stylized design because it's not reality... if done well, it's better than reality. You have more control over the appeal of the characters. I see the real world everyday, it's fun to watch a movie and be taken on a journey that feels believable... but isn't real. It's all a matter of taste, but I really like stylized characters better. It's just more fun.

Rapunzel stands in the center of a swirl of her 70 feet of magical golden hair.

Long Beautiful Hair

Seven years of research went into the creation of Rapunzel's hair. Were you satisfied with the final result?

Nathan Greno: Without a doubt, YES! The hair looks amazing. You've never seen anything like it in any animated film. It's just incredible. I have no idea how our tech crew made that hair work. I know it was a nightmare to figure out. I couldn't be more proud of the results and of our team. They did a great job.

How did you arrive at 70 feet of hair for Rapunzel? Is that length something that you guys settled on after some visual tests? Or is that how long someone's hair would get if they didn't actually cut it for 18 years?

Byron Howard: Actually, seventy feet is how long the hair had to be to reach the bottom of the tower. It was that simple. That said, there are times in the film where we add or subtract a little length depending on the needs of the scene.

Do you know how many layers of animation were involved to create Rapunzel's hair?

Byron Howard: Rapunzel's amazing head of hair has over 100,000 strands.

Music

How important is music to an animated film?

Byron Howard: I think music is integral to all film. Every animated film shouldn't be a musical, but songs, music or score can do so much to move an audience emotionally, and that's a power we don't take lightly. There are parts of Tangled's score that still make me tear up.

What was it like working with [composer] Alan Menken?

Byron Howard: Alan Menken, and our lyricist Glenn Slater are two genuinely brilliant guys. In a few minutes on the piano, Alan can create a tune that you will remember for the rest of your life, and Glenn's diverse talent shows from the hilarious pub song to the heartfelt ballad in the gondolas. We're very honored to have worked with them both.

What is your favorite song in Tangled?

Byron Howard: Mine personally is "I See the Light".
The moment we heard Alan Menken's demo we knew that one would be a classic.

Nathan Greno: I really love them all. I guess if I had to pick one... I would go with the pub song "I've Got a Dream". It's just silly and fun and crazy. It's always wild to watch.

Production

How was working on Tangled different to working on Bolt?

Nathan Greno: For Bolt, I oversaw the story department. I worked with a team of artists - we came up with story and character ideas and sent them on to the next department. On Tangled, I am one of the directors. I now get to follow those story ideas through the creative process. I love my job. I still get to storyboard from time to time... I'd never want to give that up.

How was directing this feature with another director beside you? Were there any difficulties or is it a normal occurrence?

Byron Howard: I really prefer directing as part of a team. Nathan and I have very good chemistry together and we are constantly pushing each other to make sure the film is as good as it can be. The thing that saves us from any huge disagreements is our shared philosophy that whatever is best for the story, wins.

How involved is John Lasseter during the whole process?

Nathan Greno: John has to approve everything we do and that guy only wants the best. It's amazing working with him. I've learned a lot from John. He lets you get your vision of the film up on the screen... and he brings out the best in you and your work. What could be better?

What were three main challenges you faced making Tangled?

Byron Howard: 1. The schedule 2. The schedule 3. The schedule. Honestly, the film was challenging in a hundred ways, but the fact that we had to make this film in half the time of other features was the real bear. Happily, the film looks more amazing than we could've ever hoped for, but our poor crew really took a beating trying to hit those deadlines with Nathan and myself being so slavish to quality. We love our crew, and the fact that their work has made such a splash in the world really justifies all their hard work and sacrifice.

Nathan Greno: The schedule was terrible. Usually you have 4 to 5 years to make one of these films. We only had 2. It was crazy. Lucky for us, we were working with a very devoted, hard-working, talented crew. We all worked around the clock. We worked through weekends and holidays. We all believed in this film. We basically did the impossible. The film looks like it took 5 years to make... and it only took 2!

Did you get much sleep throughout the making of Tangled?

Byron Howard: Nope.

Nathan Greno: Zzzzzzz... what? Sorry. I missed the question...

Disney's animators labored over a hot design for Flynn Rider so that they wouldn't get his nose wrong, as Wanted poster illustrators seem to.

Tangled's Place in the Disney Canon

Was Tangled always going to be Disney's 50th animation film? Or, did it just come about like that?

Byron Howard: It was a big surprise to us that we were Disney Animation's fiftieth animated feature. It added more pressure for sure, but we love that our film holds that important place in Disney history.

How do you think Rapunzel stacks up against the long line of Disney princesses? And what do you think she's brought to the table which is fresh or new?

Nathan Greno: Rapunzel is the most modern of all the Disney Princesses. She is full of GIRL POWER. We love that about her. She doesn't wait around to be rescued. She takes matters into her own hands.
She's a fun, funny and silly girl. She's very talented and smart. We wanted to make a role model for modern kids. We were really happy with the way she turned out.

Are there any hidden nods to other films included in Tangled that you can tell us to look out for?

Byron Howard: Look for Pinocchio hidden in the pub and in Rapunzel's tower, each newel post on her staircase is painted with the symbol of Disney's previous five princesses.

What was your favorite animated film growing up, has it inspired you up and until today?

Byron Howard: The animated film that made me want to be an animator was The Little Mermaid. Ariel was the first Disney heroine I had ever seen where there seemed to be a real soul behind those eyes. As soon as I saw that film, I knew I wanted to be a part of Disney Animation. Little did I know that I'd wind up working on Tangled with Ariel's creator, legendary animator Glen Keane. Life's good.

In what way was Rapunzel inspired by Ariel in The Little Mermaid?

Byron Howard: I think Rapunzel is like Ariel in that they come across as very real young women. That was very important to us for Rapunzel, because the more you can relate and identify with these characters, the greater your emotional response will be to the journey that they take on screen.

How do you think Tangled has changed the future of Disney films?

Byron Howard: I think that Tangled proves that this studio can make smart, contemporary films that still retain everything that the audience loves about traditional Disney filmmaking. The slate of upcoming projects coming up from our studio excites me because they're not what you would expect. It's a great time to be a part of this studio.

Which Disney princess is your favorite?

Nathan Greno: Rapunzel, baby!

Other than Tangled, what is your favorite Disney movie?

Nathan Greno: I love Dumbo! Best. Film. Ever.

On the Cutting Room Floor

Was there a character that was initially in the story, but was removed because they no longer fit within the story?

Byron Howard: We had a fortune-telling monkey that was very popular, but eventually we found that he wasn't part of where the story needed to go. You can see a hint of him in the end credits.

There's some concept art in The Art of Tangled that shows Rapunzel's love interest as more of a muscular commoner / farm boy, rather than a handsome rogue like Flynn Rider. Was this story idea seriously explored? Or just something that was considered?

Byron Howard: The burlier leading man was from a previous version of the movie.
Learn fun facts about Rapunzel's best friend:
Nathan and I knew we wanted a dashing thief from the get-go, so Flynn, as you see him in the movie, evolved from that idea. And also from the "Hot Man Meeting" where we asked dozens of women at the studio to bring in pictures of their favorite hunky men to help us design Flynn. Being a guy in that meeting was brutal. Those ladies have high standards!

How did the idea for "hot man" meetings come up?

Nathan Greno: We had a great design for Rapunzel. She was super cute and incredibly appealing. We needed Flynn to be up to that level, so we had this crazy idea to bring all of the women of the studio into a room and ask them what they thought made up a "hot man". It was a crazy meeting. Crazy. Photos of all the hottest men in Hollywood being thrown around a room. Photos being torn in half and pasted back together. Eyes were ripped from one picture and put on another. Heads were torn from photos. I've never seen anything like it. I'm happy to be alive.

Nine versions of Rapunzel were created before you settled on the final version. What were some of the other versions like?

Nathan Greno: Really? Nine? The idea of a Rapunzel movie has been around the Disney Animation Studio since the 1930's... I bet there has been more than nine.

No girly princess movie, Disney's "Tangled" is full of high-spirited adventure that both genders can enjoy at any age.

Reception

At what point during the filmmaking process did you know you had a hit?

Byron Howard: I don't think you know anything about how a film's going to do until it does it. It's always our hope that these films will do well; we pour our hearts and souls into every frame, tear the story apart reaching for more emotion and more comedy, but ultimately, it's up to the audience whether they fall in love with a film or not. We're delighted that Tangled has become so popular; it's a great reward for all that work.

Why do you think you were able to get boys interested in a "Disney Princess" film?

Nathan Greno: Mostly because I don't feel we made a "princess film". Honestly, I feel we made a movie that has princess elements in it -- but I wouldn't call it a princess film. Tangled has a ton of action, a ton of humor, a ton of heart and emotion. It's a film for everyone. Yes, we have a princess... but she doesn't know she's a princess. It was easy to get boys interested in the movie because we made a movie for everyone to enjoy.

2010 was really, according to many, a great year for animated movies... Were you a little bit disappointed when that movie wasn't nominated for an Oscar? Especially this year, where many claimed that there should have been five nominees.

Byron Howard: Yes, we were initially very disappointed when Tangled didn't receive an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. However, the day before the Oscar announcements we had shown the film at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, and the reaction from those kids and their parents is worth more to us than one million Oscars.

Do you think that home viewers will miss out on some of the delights of seeing Tangled on the big screen with all the bells and whistles?

Byron Howard: The Blu-ray looks extraordinary, so beauty-wise, I think the experience will echo the theater experience nicely.
I do think there will always be something about viewing a film in an audience, hearing people all around you laugh, cry, and react to the story playing out in front of you. It's a social, human thing that I don't think will ever go away completely.

Wrapping Up...

What about Tangled are you most proud of?

Byron Howard: I think we're most proud of our crew. Nathan and I asked the world of them during our hectic production schedule and they delivered the most beautiful film anyone could imagine. It's a great reward for all six hundred crew members to see people around the world falling in love with their work.

Nathan Greno: The whole thing! Really. We worked hard to make sure it was all worth watching. The movie had to look great, the story had to be strong, the characters had to be fun and appealing. There's so much action and emotion in the film... it's really everything I wanted it to be. I'm most proud of the whole thing!

How do you feel about Tangled being the last of the Disney Princess films (for a while anyway)?

Nathan Greno: I've heard that rumor. Not true! If we wanted to do a princess movie as our next project, John Lasseter would be ok with that. There is a lot in development at Disney Animation... I wouldn't rule out the idea of seeing another princess movie!

Byron Howard: Honestly, I'm very happy that Disney Animation's upcoming slate includes vastly diverse projects. That keeps the studio healthy. And, believe it or not, that slate does still include some great fairy tales.

The Future

Do you think you will become a directing duo from now on?

Nathan Greno: We couldn't be happier with the results of Tangled... we felt like we had no choice but to do this again! We already pitched new ideas to our boss, John Lasseter and we are currently working as a team developing one of those ideas into a feature film. So... YES! Stay tuned!

Congratulations on the film's success. Have you given any thought to making a sequel?

Nathan Greno: We'd only do a sequel if there was a great story to tell. The movie buttons up really nicely... but we do love those characters... I guess we'll have to wait and see. Again, we'd have to have a great story already in mind if we wanted to do a sequel...

Tangled: Blu-ray + DVD cover art -- click to read our combo pack review
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<< Return to read about Tangled's development, directors, cast, characters, and story

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Published March 28, 2011. Interview conducted March 16, 2011.